Physician: Global AIDS Funding Uncertain
March 23, 2009 – Dr. Peter Mugyenyi, founding director of Uganda’s HIV/AIDS Joint Clinical Research Centre and one of the world’s foremost specialists in the field of HIV/AIDS, came to Georgetown for a March 18 address, “Global AIDS Funding in an Era of Uncertainty,” -- sponsored by Georgetown’s Africa Interest Network (GAIN) and the advocacy group Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). Nearly 1 million people in Uganda are living with HIV, and nearly 1.2 million children have been orphaned by AIDS in the country, according to a 2008 UNAIDS global report. A pediatrician by practice, Mugyenyi has spent his life dedicated to improving HIV prevention, care and treatment in Africa.
“My mission to my patients is to provide them with the best therapy available,” Mugyenyi said. “It is painful to see a patient die due to lack of effective medicine or intervention.”
He highlighted the success of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) -- a U.S. initiative to combat the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“PEPFAR has undoubtedly been successful in Uganda,” Mugyenyi said. “It has helped increase the number of patients on antiretroviral therapy; death has declined in the country; we are reaching remote communities and the treatment is working.”
Created in 2003, PEPFAR provided $18.8 billion to support HIV prevention, care and treatment in its first five years. Since its launch, the number of people living with HIV on antiretroviral therapy in sub-Saharan Africa has increased from 50,000 to 3 million. In 2008, Congress reauthorized the program, committing up to $48 billion over the next five years to combat global HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Mugyenyi helped develop the framework for PEPFAR and was First Lady Laura Bush’s guest at the State of the Union address when it was announced in 2003.
“(Mugyenyi) is a true hero, whose successful pioneering efforts brought antiretroviral treatment to sub-Saharan Africa,” said Mark Dybul, co-director of Georgetown’s Center for Global Health at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law.
Dybul, a longtime colleague of Mugyenyi, led the implementation of PEPFAR as U.S. global AIDS coordinator during George W. Bush’s presidency. “Without Peter’s work, there would be no PEPFAR,” he added.
In his remarks to the Georgetown audience, Mugyenyi acknowledged that Dybul’s work leading PEPFAR had much to do with the successes in some African nations. He said what Dybul has done will never be forgotten and history will record his tremendous contribution.
“But it’s not all roses,” Mugyenyi warned about the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa. “We are short of human resources and with the continuing global economic crisis and lack of continuity in PEPFAR, I am fearful for existing programs and future initiatives,” he said.